Democrat vs Democracy

Are Democrats the guardians of democracy? The words are so similar that one might think they are interchangeable. Recent news broadcasts show Democrat leaders making statements that they must take certain actions “to save democracy”.

I guess we should start this discussion by reviewing what a democracy is. You can look up the definition for yourself if you would like. Here I will give my understanding, I think you will agree with it. Basically, democracy is a form of self-rule, where the power lies with the people who are being governed. This is expressed by voting. The people express their wishes by casting votes and the will of the majority prevails. Often democracy is spoken of as “majority rule”.

In the United States of America, we have a democratic republic. In this case we vote to elect representatives at all levels of government who will vote on our behalf. This is done to make life easier. The average American has plenty to do without having to study and vote on every specific issue. It is much easier to elect someone who can work fulltime on studying and voting on bills.

There are several assumptions attached to the whole voting process. Some of them are stated in or inferred by our Bill of Rights. Assumptions which are central to democracy:

  1. Citizens have a right to self-rule rather than to have others rule over them.
  2. Votes are the primary tool to determine the will of the people.
  3. Majority opinion should prevail. In America we have a balancing standard that the majority should not rule in a way that disregards the concerns of the minority.
  4. That each citizen may vote for the persons who best represent their personal views.
  5. Freedom of conscience is foundational. Meaning that each individual is free to vote in accordance with his/her personal beliefs.
  6. That each person with a right to vote, can vote.
  7. That each person with a right to vote, gets one and only one vote.
  8. That any person who does not have a right to vote, may not vote.
  9. That votes are accurately and fairly, tabulated and verified.

I am not going to debate the legitimacy of the November 2020 election results. You will have to research that for yourselves and come to your own conclusion. So, I will not deal with items 8 through 11. I would like to address the rest of the items as they relate to the past and present positions of the Democrat Party.

  1. Citizens have a right to self-rule rather than to have others rule over them.
    I think that for the most part, Democrats would agree with this statement.
  2. Votes are the primary tool to determine the will of the people.
    History has shown that when the vote of the people does not produce the desired results, then the Democrat Party resorts to non-democratic methods. The most notable is to turn to the courts to overrule the will of the majority. There are many examples in history, Roe vs Wade is the premier example. Before Roe vs Wade, many States had passed laws legalizing abortion in some form or another, and others had restricted them. Democrats did not feel that such an important decision should be left up to the democratic process, so they fabricated a case to make its way to the Supreme Court. I say fabricated because the decision had no effect on the actual case. The unborn baby was a toddler by the time it made it to the Supreme Court.
    This is also shown by the outrage among Democrat leadership over the change in the makeup of the Supreme Court. They could no longer confidently look to the Court to overturn laws created through democratic means.
  3. Majority opinion should prevail. In America we have a balancing standard that the majority should not rule in a way that disregards the concerns of the minority.
    If you have followed the Democrat Party you know that their entire platform and campaigning is based on minority rights. These are not rights protected by the Constitution. No! These are a whole litany of newly created rights for newly created minorities. They are not under majority rule. They are not even on an equal level as majority rule. They are considered superior to majority rule. The laws, actions and court cases indicate that Democrats are promoting minority rule.
    I will give you a simple example we are facing in my hometown. Central Park has a manmade hill and waterfall that is in disrepair. If we are to repair the waterfall and path that leads to the top of Emerald Hill, we must abide by a handicap access law. It would result in a path that would turn Emerald Hill into Concrete Path Hill. The result is we will not allow access to anyone. If the majority will not go to extravagant levels to accommodate the “rights” of the minority then the majority will lose their rights.
  4. That each citizen may vote for the persons who best represent their personal views.
    I will address numbers 4, 5 and 6 together under number 6.
  5. Citizens are equipped with adequate reasoning abilities to select wise and responsible representatives.
  6. That representatives are equipped with adequate reasoning abilities and will vote on behalf of those who elect them.
    Twice the Democrat leadership in Congress has attempted to impeach President Trump. The stated goal was to remove him from office and guarantee that he could not run again.
    Donald Trump was elected through the democratic process. He won the majority electoral votes according to the Constitution. He was fairly elected. During the first impeachment trial, if convicted the Senate could take a series of disciplinary actions, including removing him from office. They chose to seek the highest penalty which would not only remove him from office but to ban him from ever seeking public office again.
    Once President Donald Trump was out of office the Democrats attempted a second impeachment. Quite frankly this was a ridiculous application of the law because impeachment only applies to persons in office. The goal was to undermine democracy in the name of saving democracy. The Democrats wanted to remove the possibility that Trump supporters could elect the person who best represents them. It assumes that citizens are not equipped with adequate reasoning abilities to select wise and responsible representation. To impeach President Trump would not have been a vote on behalf of the people because it would have denied nearly half (or more) of voting Americans their right to select the President of their choice in 2024. Our elected representatives should vote on our behalf in Congress but they should not vote to take away our vote. To do so is undemocratic.
  7. That a free and open exchange of ideas is necessary for citizens to vote intelligently. This concept is so foundational that it was captured in the first amendment.
    The basic idea here is that in a democracy the free exchange of ideas allows for all viewpoints and reasoning to be heard and examined by the public. Then the people will be trusted to weed through the good and the bad, the true and the false and come to their own conclusions. It is apparent that many people no longer trust the democratic process. They no longer believe that the average American should be trusted to weed out truth from fiction. There is a belief that these evaluations should no longer be left to the common Americans. Now we need “fact checkers” and the “intellectually elite” to determine for us what is true and what is false, what should be heard and what should be censored. For the first time in history Americans have been fed information through obvious filters. This is largely a problem within the Democrat Party but it is not limited to them. Republican leadership also believes that voters are persons to be manipulated and used. It seems that no one believes in democracy. No one believes that voters should decide and that good or bad, you get what you vote for, but at least it is your choice.
  8. Freedom of conscience is foundational. Meaning that each individual is free to vote in accordance with his/her personal beliefs.
    Somehow, we have forgotten that democracy rests on freedom of conscience. What that means is that every individual has a right and responsibility to elect his/her representative based on whatever reasoning he/she feels is right. I really don’t care if you are an Islamic who thinks we should have sharia law, or if you are a communist, socialist, libertarian, fundamentalist Christian who thinks we should all live according to the Bible. A black activist that thinks reparations should be paid to descendants of slaves and affirmative action should be the law, or a white supremist who believes that whites should rule, and all others should be subordinate. I will argue my point of view with you and try to persuade you. But when all is said and done I expect you to vote your conscience and I will respect and defend your right to do so. I pray that you will do the same for me. In doing so we will preserve the democracy, our most precious possession as Americans.
    From what I see and hear from Democrats is that they no longer believe that people should think for themselves. They no longer believe that dissent is a good thing that helps us to sharpen our reasoning and consider alternative viewpoint. They will only tolerate those who agree with them. Anyone who disagrees should be shamed, silenced, canceled, and destroyed.

Democrats no longer believe in the foundational elements of democracy. They say that they are fighting to defend democracy but in reality they are working to destroy it.

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Globalism or Nationalism—a Biblical Perspective

Recently I was discussing the Genesis story of the Tower of Babel with my youngest son. His is the youth director at his church and has been working on a series of the stories of the Bible. We were discussing whether the story of the Tower of Babel is significant enough to spend a week studying it. The Biblical account is only nine verses long. It is normally communicated as kind of a cute little side story after the account of Noah. It is taught as the story of a group of people trying to build a tower to reach up to heaven. I have heard it said that they were trying to reach God through human means.

The account is short and there is not a lot of detail, so we naturally speculate to fill in the blanks. Here is my understanding of what the story is all about and why it is important to us today.

Genesis is the Book of Beginnings. It starts with the beginning of everything. Then focuses on the beginning of mankind. Then the beginning of sin and evil. Noah tells of the first judgement. The Tower of Babel is the beginning of nations.

The Biblical account from the New King James Version, Genesis chapter 11.

The Tower of Babel

1Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called [c]Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

The primary focus here is that “the people are one and they all have one language”. Remember back at the creation of man, Adam and Eve were instructed to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. These people were not filling the earth. Instead, they were focused on not scattering. Their focus was on remaining unified and making a name for themselves. We are often taught that the tower was an attempt to reach God, and that may be the case. But in the Biblical account the tower was the focal point, a central landmark for a giant city. The tower was a monument to their greatness. It was pride in their accomplishments.

This was not an empty boast. God says, “…and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” I believe the point here is not that God feels threatened by their accomplishments. God is not intimidated. The point is one of pride in human accomplishment apart from God. I agree Bible scholar who say that this is the beginning of humanism.

God addresses the humanism through the creation of nations. There are two factors on which nations are built. The first in language, God confounds their languages. The second in geography, God scatters them across the earth.

Note that nations are not a temporary thing. God continues to address nations throughout the Bible. His next focus in Genesis is on the calling of Abram to become Abraham, the father of nations. Eventually God focuses on His chosen people, the nation of Israel.

Take a look at the messages in the Bible. Much of God’s dealings are with nations, not individuals. Even at the end of time people from every nation and language are gathered around the throne of God.

Nations are part of God’s plan. They are necessary to keep us from being filled with human pride and seeking to live independent of God.

There is a big push toward unifying the world, a move toward Globalism. We used to view a pandemic as God’s judgement, and we would repent from our wicked ways and cry out to God to save us. That is no longer the case. God is no longer in the picture. Now, we believe that if we all unite and work together we can conquer disease. If we work together we can control the climates of the world. If fact, if we unite in one global effort there will be nothing that is impossible for us. And we can accomplish it all without even acknowledging God. He is irrelevant.

The current Globalism movement is inspired and directed by Satan. It is anti-God and will lead to the Anti-Christ. It is the return of Babel.

It will not end well for those who join the Globalist movement that will attempt to unite humans in large cities under one system of governance. As happened at Babel. God will come down and judge the earth. It will become evident who is in control and who is the King of Kings and LORD of Lords.

Maranatha—come quickly Lord Jesus.

Globalism, Nationalism and The Wall

Donald Trump is no longer President of the United States and yet he remains the central figure in political debate. The goals of the new administration are stated in terms of Donald Trump. The goal is to undo what Donald Trump has done.

One of the first things that Donald Trump did as president was to begin the building of a wall along America’s southern border. The argument given is simple, it has two components. We are a nation of law-abiding citizens. Respecting and upholding our laws is central to our very existence. Having an unprotected border is a threat to our national security. An open border is an open opportunity for terrorist, drug smugglers, sex traffickers and criminals of all kinds to enter our country.

The counter argument was that Donald Trump, and his supporters are racists who view all persons entering our country from Mexico and South America as dangerous criminals and a threat to our society. This argument acknowledges that most persons crossing the border illegally are seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Some are fleeing oppressive governments or cities ravaged by crime. The argument appeals to America’s heart of generosity. It stresses that we are a nation of immigrants and that nearly all of us are descendant from people who came here for the exact same reasons.

Both of these arguments are emotionally charged. Both are designed to activate their respective supporters. Both are designed to quickly circulate through the national media and through social media. That is how it works in modern politics. The problem is that although both arguments are valid, neither one deals with the core issue.

I have a great respect for the great men who founded our nation. They were well studied and articulate. Many of them were experts on the political philosophies of the time. Questions of democracy verses monarchy verses a republic were well understood, but many of them had never been tested. They understood that no colony had ever severed ties with the mother country. Natural rights and liberties only existed in political philosophical writings, they had never been fully tested on a practical level. These were the questions of the day. These were the debates among our leaders.

On the streets there were uprisings over a stamp tax which was designed to “fact check” and limit public discourse. The most widely read pamphlet was Thomas Pain’s Common Sense. It contained passionate arguments, but they were based on political philosophy. We have changed, we no longer understand the philosophy is the rightful foundation on which policies are built. We focus on the symptoms the peripheral issues, not the foundational ones.  

The debate about protected borders or open borders is not about the borders. The borders are important, but they are not the debate. They are the surface issue that must be addressed after the foundational political philosophy is established. The question at hand is, “Do we follow a political philosophy of Globalism or one of Nationalism?” At another level this is a tension between local autonomy and centralized authority. Unfortunately, our leaders and our media do not believe that the American public is equipped to handle such an intellectual debate. They may be right.

The wall is the physical expression of the debate. The nationalist says, “Let’s Make America Great Again”. The focus is on America as an independent autonomous country that works primarily for the benefit of its citizens. That is not to say that there is no consideration of global events or global interests. The point is that the purpose of a representative government is to serve the people who elected them. A protected border becomes essential for the preservation of national autonomy and national identity.

The globalist’s say that we are citizens of the world. If the world is to survive then we must work together to solve global problems. We must put personal and national interests aside and join together in the greater fight for humanity. The elimination of borders becomes essential to us forming a global identity and functioning as one people.

If we can come to agreement as to where we stand on the globalist-nationalist continuum then we may be able to address the wall, immigration, and a host of other issues.

America’s Democratic-Republic is unique. A democracy is based on majority rule, but American democracy has always attempted balance. We have sought to balance the interest of the majority with the wellbeing of individuals and minorities. We have been far from perfect in this but protecting individual rights is a cornerstone of our democracy. Caring for and defending people from oppression and treating all persons equally under the law is not just a function of government it has been an important cultural value. There is always a push-pull tension and the pendulum swings back and forth.

The same can be said about Globalism and Nationalism. It need not be a choice between one extreme or the other. We can do both and seek to keep it in some type of balance. We can work toward the best interests of America and our citizens without becoming oppressive and taking unfair advantage of other countries.

Although there is room for both Globalism and Nationalism, we need to select one as our primary philosophical stance and the other as a peripheral issue. Are we primarily Globalists or Nationalists? Once this issue is settled, we can pursue a border enforcement policy which matches our political philosophy.

I will end this essay here. There is much more to be said about the history of these two competing political philosophies. I will address my interpretation and application of Biblical principles to this issue in a future article.

Media Bias Is Not What You Think

Often the mainstream media is accused of being biased. This accusation normally comes from conservatives.  Of course bias depends somewhat on your point of view. We talk in terms of left or right. That assumes some center and a person’s, or groups views are either left or right of center. In truth we are each biased as to where the center is, or should be. We tend to see left or right in relation to our own position or the position of the people with which we surround ourselves. If most people around us have a particular viewpoint we see that as the norm but it could be way to one side or the other.

So is the media biased? One report looked at the political affiliations of the journalist. The results show that Democrat journalists consistently outnumber Republicans.

From the Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2014/05/06/just-7-percent-of-journalists-are-republicans-thats-far-less-than-even-a-decade-ago/

political-affiliation
Image courtesy of The American Journalist in the Digital Age

That would lead us to conclude that there is a significant Democrat bias among reporters. Other research tends to support this conclusion also. If you watch the news attentively you can see the bias. Some is very obvious others are much more subtle but the bias is always there.  By the way, don’t be deceived about the designation of “Independent”. People, especially reporters, like to think of themselves as neutral and objective, but just because a person calls himself or herself independent does not mean they are neutral or objective.  When interviewed about their particular views and voting habits they nearly always fall squarely into a Republican or Democrat stance.

When it comes to politics and social issues we are taught to think in terms of Republican or Democrat, left or right, Conservative or Liberal. The media is thinking about something totally different. There is something that matters much more than who becomes President. What matters most is ratings, viewership and advertizing sales.

The media has many biases but the most important is creating a story that will make people tune in.  Notice how this has played out in this election cycle so far.  There were a dozen or so candidates for the Republican nomination but which one could they make out to be the most “controversial”, who would give them the greatest number of provocative sound bites. The obvious choice was Donald Trump and Trump knew it. If he could keep feeding them material then he would get free coverage on the news. From my estimation Trump got three times as much media coverage as all the other candidates combined.

Was any of it about real issues? Not really, it was about off handed remarks blown out of proportion to create some new “controversy”.  It was never about substance.

As we got to the Republican convention, Trump clearly had the nominations, but the media created a hype that somehow Cruz would try to pull a coop. Of course it made for a good story, and people tuned in to see what would happen but it was all media hype. Then there was the big “controversy” as to whether or not Cruz would endorse Trump.

If the primary media bias was about liberal of conservative polices then that would have been the content of the reporting, but it never is. It is always about superficial hype.

The same was true of the Democratic campaign. The Democratic leadership always wanted Hillary. It was always assumed that she would win the nomination. They have been working toward this sense Bill was President. Bernie Sanders was too extreme and never had a chance, but that does not make for a good news story. So Bernie became a big news story. They reported on his dedicated and energized youthful followers. They created a “real” threat to Hillary’s candidacy. Even at the Democratic Convention the media created a story. ‘Will Bernie endorse Hillary?’ ‘Will his supporters back her?’ The drama continues on the convention floor. Viewers stay tuned to see what will happen and the advertizing dollars keep rolling in.

Everyone thinks that in a presidential election either the Republicans or the Democrats win. The real winner is the media. Each party raised hundreds of millions of dollars. It doesn’t matter who wins the media gets it all. The more “controversy” they can create the more viewers they have; the more viewers the higher the cost for advertizing.  The media loves “Raciest” Trump and “Crooked” Hillary. Keep the scandals rolling in and the money will roll in right behind it.

Trump will say he hates the media and how biased they are. The media loves it and Trump loves the coverage it gets him. Trump challenges the media to show the record breaking turnout to his rallies and the pathetically poor turnout to the Hillary rallies. The media never shows the crowds. Trump says it is because they are biased toward Hillary. That may be true but mostly they are biased toward creating the appearance of a close race. As long as the race is close the viewing audience will stay energized.  If it looks like slam-dunk for Trump then the race is over and no one will watch.

For sure the media is bias. For sure they lean to the left. But the biggest bias is not what you think. They are biased toward themselves. They are biased towards controversy and the all mighty dollar. Who will win the race? The media will.

Touring Oppression, Obsession and Greed

Americans like to tour other countries. Sometimes we say that they have history all around them, but in America it is hard to find anything that is more than a few hundred years old. So we travel the rest of the world looking for really old stuff, stuff with real history. Of course the things we find are the great structures and works of architecture that have withstood the test of time: the pyramids, palaces, cathedrals, temples, fortresses, and castles.

In general, we don’t have those things in America. We think it is because we are not that old. The truth is age has little to do with it. It is about the structure of society and the concentration of power and wealth. Egypt does not have pyramids because it is old. Egypt has pyramids because it had a social structure that placed all power and wealth in the hands of a very few people. The rest of the country was enslaved and worked to accomplish the wishes of those at the top. It is estimated that tens of thousands of slaves worked to build the pyramids.

No one travels to Russia to see the great accomplishments of the communist system. No, they go to see the churches and palaces built during the time of the czars.

In Rome we see the great temples, forum, coliseum, aqueducts and fountains built by the thousands of slaves captured during the various military conquests. It is estimated that at one time there were ten slaves to every free man in Rome.

In France we see the ridiculously lavish, palaces and art collections of the Kings who taxed the peasants to near starvation.

At the Vatican you can see some great cathedrals and works of art paid for through abusive practices of paying indulgences.

As you travel from place to place the names change but the story is much the same. Wonderful architectural structures and beautiful collections of fine art all acquired because a few people had the power, wealth and control of public resources to lavish on themselves and their own interests. We don’t have those things in America not because we are not that old. We don’t have them because we have placed our focus on the freedom of opportunity for the common man. That is not to say that we don’t have some very wealthy people. We do, and they live some very lavish lifestyles. You can watch “lifestyles of the rich and famous” and see all kinds of wealthy Americans, but there is something radically different. We feel that these people earned their money, or at least we willingly bought their product of service. Somehow we don’t feel like they obtained their wealth through the oppression of others.

So there you have it. We admire these great structures, and art collections of history. We marvel at the great empires of the past that brought them into being. Then we create laws and social structures to guarantee that concentrations of wealth and power like that will never happen again.

It really is hypocritical tourism. We praise the accomplishments of oppressive empires of the past and condemn them in the present.

What kind of monuments will we build in our present day that will become the tourist attractions of the future? Will they be monuments of greed and oppression? Will they be monuments of individual expression, like the Watts Towers, Scotty’s Castle, or Salvation Mountain, that were built in the past, but new building codes will guarantee that type of individual expression never happens again. Maybe we will simply continue to admire the monuments of ancient history because we can no longer build them in the present.

Chipped Paint and Broken Plaster

I am sitting in a solarium café in a hotel in Italy. The room is filled with old patio tables with simple formed steel tops and elaborate, decorative, cast metal bases. The chairs are also old and mismatched. It seems that they are simply collected over time from just about anywhere. Some are indirectly carved, others are delicately curved steel bars, bent to create curly-ques, and heart shaped backs. Like the head board of a fine brass bed. There are wicker benches with woven seats and backs. Some chairs are formed of bamboo or some type of reed. There are also simple folding chairs made from steel flat bar and wooden slats. Everything has multiple coats of paint. The last layer is white. All the paint is chipped to expose the earlier colors of the bare steel. The rest of the room is decorated with various pillows, lights, baskets, fresh fruit and plants. There are wire hearts covered in fabric hanging around the room. Some are right side up, but most are cocked at some odd angle of even upside down. It is exactly what you would see in some “Country Cottage” magazine.

It is all very romantic and appealing. I just can’t figure out why.

Two days ago I went to visit our office in Assago. It was a very modern building, the type that would e featured in “Architectural Digest”. My guess is that it was when it was first built. It is what I call an architect’s playground. The architect went wild with every new and different idea he could come up with. Often these buildings are not about beauty of even functionality; they are about being different, cutting edge, breaking the rules and being modern. The ironic thing is that in 20 years these buildings will look old and dated.

The truly old architecture is called timeless and classic. As I walk the brick streets of Tortona, Italy, I am in awe of the old brick buildings with heavy wooden doors opening to brick and tile paved courtyards—the shuttered windows and balconies with hanging flower boxes. Everywhere there is chipped plaster. Occasionally I will run across a grand old building that is abandoned and decaying. The plaster has fallen away exposing large areas of ancient brick. The red tile roof has collapsed in places letting light filter through the broken windows from the inside. Great chunks of the wall have collapsed. Somehow there is a beauty in all of this decay. It is the subject of great photographs and pencil sketches.

Once again I ask myself, “What is it that makes old decaying buildings so appealing?”

What is funny is that I can remember as a child I didn’t like old looking things. Chipped and broken, meant chipped and broken. It seemed dirty. I expected bugs to come crawling out. There was nothing beautiful or romantic about it. I liked the clean, slick modern styles.

I guess your tastes change as you get older. You appreciate what happens with the passage of time. You understand that many of those chips and broken pieces have a story—the story of people’s lives: the events that formed them, the attempts to repair them, the new plaster and the new coat of paint. Many things have no specific story, it is just the wear of daily life that weathers and shapes us and leaves small cracks, chips and smudges. The buildings, the furniture, the collection of odds and ends, the tilted hearts—they all have a story. I will never know these stories they are lost to time, as someday mine will be, but there is something beautiful and romantic about sitting in a solarium in Italy, sipping on a cappuccino, surrounded by a million silent stories told by chipped paint and broken plaster.

Familiar Faces in Foreign Places

America is very unique in that we truly are a nation of immigrants. People have come from every nation on earth, and they have become Americans. This amazing blend, this bringing together different people to form a nation is truly American. This inviting and accepting of people is one of the factors that has made America great.

People come from all over. The first generation to arrive holds strongly to their roots. They are a generation in transition. They see themselves as coming from somewhere else. The next generation sees themselves differently. They are Americans but they have a strong heritage from another country; often a country that they will never know first-hand. It is only through their parents that they maintain the connection. By the third generation they are undeniable Americans. They still may take some pride in being a hyphenated American; but they are Americans through and through, just like every other hyphenated American.

I was born and raised in America and I am a blend of a few different ethnicities. I have never been able to think of myself as anything other than American. I’m not even hyphenated. As such, I look at other Americans as just simply Americans and have not given a lot of thought to where their families come from. That has changed for me now that I have done some international traveling during the last month.

Before I left for Italy a friend, Nadine, asked what town I was going to. I said “Tortona” and she excitedly said, “My family is from that area.” A strange thing happened. As I met coworkers in the Tortona office, I began to see familiar faces. There was a girl in the office that had some facial features, gestures and way of communicating that reminded me of Cheryl, Nadine’s daughter. A Guy in the office named Simone, looked like Nadine’s son, Dan. The way he would look at me reminded me of Dan. He even had Dan’s grin. In my mind I even used it to try and help me remember names. I would say to myself, ‘Oh, yah, Simone—he is the purchasing guy that looks like Dan Deal.’

There was another thin, energetic, young man named Pietro. He reminded me of a thin, energetic, third generation Italian-American guy I worked with in California, named Nick Carbone. This whole experience of seeing familiar faces in foreign places has been interesting and kind of fun. It has made me aware of the ethnicity of my friends at home, something I had never paid much attention to. Mostly I think it is a way of avoiding being homesick. These people are strangers to me, but in some way there is comfort in seeing the American counterpart in their eyes, and their gestures.

The strangest one happened this morning at breakfast. I am in Mumbai, India right now. I sat down for breakfast at the hotel restaurant. My nephew James came up to take my order. Okay it wasn’t James, it was some Indian waiter that looked like my Mexican-American nephew, James. I smiled as he asked me something that I really didn’t understand. Then he gestured to the side with his head. I went. ‘Oh my gosh! It’s James. I never noticed before but he does that same gesture with his head.

Again it was fun and a bit comforting. I guess I am home sick.

Titanic and the Security of a Woman

Early in my marriage, maybe even before I was married, I heard a speaker say that one of the main things a woman seeks in marriage is security. I think the teaching came from James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. If it was someone else, I am sorry; I try to give credit to the right person whenever I can.

It was a good lesson to learn early on. It has served us well over time. I continue to learn the significant nuances of what this means.

As I was thinking of how to communicate this, the movie TITANIC came to mind. On the surface TITAINIC looks like a movie about a tragic accident at sea. That is not the case. The story is about Rose DeWitt Bukater who is speeding on a crash course to disaster. She is engaged Cal Hockley, a rich, handsome young man, that can provide financial security for Rose and her mother. The problem is that Rose doesn’t love him and he views Rose as another one of his possessions. Although she will have financial security she is at her wits’ end. There is something missing, something much more important. She becomes suicidal and is ready to jump off the back of the ship. Jack Dawson sees her and comes to the rescue.

Rose is intrigued by the daring young man who would apparently risk his own life to save hers. Jack is the antithesis of Cal. Jack has no money, no home and no solid plan for the future. Jack is an artistic free-spirit, spontaneously moving from one adventure to another.

Why would Rose be interested in Jack rather than Cal? What does he have to offer?

As a father, when I see a movie like this I cringe. I am afraid that my daughters will see a movie like this and decide that they want to run off with some flighty, irresponsible, free-spirit, adventure seeking artist and ruin their lives. A young man will lead her on an adventure and then tire of her and move on to someone else. Jack has a lot of those qualities and it is a little scary to watch. Part of the story is Rose rejecting being forced into a mold and choosing her own way. There is this element of youthful, rebellious adventure.

So Jack could offer rebellious adventure, but was that the whole story? Is that really what Rose was looking for? I don’t think so. Cal could give Rose financial security but he destroyed her emotional security. Jack on the other hand valued her. He came to her rescue more than once. He stood up for her. He valued her opinions and encouraged her to express herself. He wanted to share experiences with her. As the Titanic began to sink Jack was strong. He never gave up in trying to save Rose and himself. He was innovative and courageous. Even in the most hopeless of situation Rose felt secure as long as she was with Jack. To the very last moment Jack worked to make Rose secure; to make her believe that she could survive, and she did.

It is important for a man to provide security for his woman. Often we see this in terms of financial security, and that is very important, but it doesn’t end there. I learned some of these lessons early in marriage. A couple of times Beckie had come to me with some things that she was sure would shake up our relationship. I suppose they could have, but they didn’t. I assured her that they didn’t matter and that nothing was going to challenge my love for her. Someone has said that love is a choice and at those points I made a choice to love Beckie.

Early in our marriage we had some points of adjustment. Okay they were arguments, as much as Beckie argues (we really don’t argue and I can thank Beckie for that). The first few times it happened I saw fear in Beckie’s eyes. It suddenly dawned on me that the way I was reacting to her was shaking her security. I backed off and have tried to be sensitive ever since.

Much later in our marriage I went through a long period of unemployment. We were secure in our relationship so we weathered it rather well to begin with. I learned some important things during that time. One was that I could not find my security in a job or my ability to earn money. I needed to shift my confidence from myself to God. God is my provider and protector. He is the one in whom I should place my faith. It was an important lesson to learn. Since that time I have worried much less about money. Whether I have it or not really doesn’t matter much because my security is in the Lord.

Emotional security became much more important than financial security. If we were secure in our relationship with each other then we would we able to handle the financial stress. Our faith contributed to our emotional security. I heard a quote once that I really like, “An atheist is a person with no invisible means of support.”

I relate that like it was an easy lesson, it was not. I was without work, picking up odd jobs here and there, for almost a full year. As time went on Beckie felt more and more of the responsibility for the family. She was under a lot of stress but she tried not to show it. It was not right for me to let that burden fall on her. As we neared the one year mark, my confidence began to fail. When you have been without work for a few months, you can prop yourself up with, ‘It is just temporary. Something will come along soon.’ But when it has gone on for almost a year you question yourself. You begin to wonder if there is something wrong with you. You wonder if you will ever work again. Maybe you will become one of those families that live forever on public assistance. By then we were reaching a point that Beckie would have the additional stress of trying to support me emotionally as I was giving up. God in His mercy provided me with a job and we did not fall into total despair.

That year was 1990. It is now 2015 and I experienced another layoff. We have learned the lessons of the past and our confidence is in God as our provider and protector. But there were still lessons to learn. I knew that if I would place my full confidence in God that my faith would be contagious and that Beckie could feel confident in God also. We would be secure even though we were on a sinking ship. She would look to me to lead in faith. What I didn’t realize was how that works. We decided to spend some time seeking the Lord’s direction. I told Beckie that even though I often pray for God’s direction, I often don’t feel like I receive a clear indication from God as to what I should do. This seemed pretty normal for me so it didn’t really bother me. I have often seen people overstate their “Leading from the Lord”, and I don’t want to be one of those people.

When I shared this with Beckie, I saw that look in her eyes again. It was fear. I realized what was happening. We were seeking God for direction. She was looking to me to receive that direction from God and I was telling her not to trust my ability to discern God’s leading. Once again I could see that her security was shaken. I could see that I was placing responsibilities on her that clearly should belong to me.

The burden was on me to do a better job of seeking the Lord, discerning His leading and providing leadership in taking action. As it worked out I still did not hear a voice from heaven but I do think that God clearly led. I don’t think this is the last time we will be in a learning situation like this. Each time l learned a little bit more about myself a little bit more about faith and my amazing God, and a little bit more about Beckie and the emotional security of a women.

I hope you have learned some things through my sharing.

Bee Sting

Does True Faith have a Plan B?

I grew up in suburbia twenty miles east of Los Angeles. The community was built in the mid-1950s, a pretty typical suburban development of the time. The neighborhood was cookie cutter houses, chosen from about five different floor plans. All of the houses used the same group of plants in the landscaping but they were arranged a little differently at each house. The kids all played together in the street a little like “Leave it to Beaver”.

When I was about eight years old one of the favorite activities was to catch bees. Now, as a parent, I call this type of activity, “childhood stupidity”. So, write it off to childhood stupidity, but catching bees was what we did. The neighborhood was filled with shrubs called, wax-leaf privets. They have dark green waxy leaves about an inch wide and two inches long. In the spring they produce dense clusters of very small white blossoms and the bees loved them. The neighbor across the street had a hedge made of wax-leaf privets; the perfect place to catch bees.

To catch bees you would take a milk bottle, yes milk came in glass bottles at the time. You would hold the bottle upside down and lower it over a bee humming about the blossom cluster. Once the bee realized that something was wrong, he would try to escape by flying up into the bottle. Then you quickly place the cardboard bottle cap over the opening to trap your prize.

The first bee is the easy one. We would repeat this process of opening the bottle and trapping a second bee without letting the first, rather angry bee, out. If you were good you could trap four or five bees in the same bottle.

Normally there were about three boys involved in this activity. We would egg each other on, or encourage one another, depending on your perspective. There was an element of competition and pride over who would push the envelope and do the dangerous thing of catching one more bee.

One day a couple of the neighbor boys came knocking on the door. They were all excited. As I came outside they said, ‘Mike caught a bee with his bare hands.” Okay, that had to be the ultimate accomplishment in bee catching. That was boyhood bravery.

As we were walking across the street I was overcome by a sudden wave of childhood stupidity. Was it bravery, courage, naivety, pride, or misplaced faith? I don’t know for sure but the boys assured me that Mike had accomplished this extreme act of bravery and he had not been stung. I believed them and I wasn’t about to be out done, so I confidently said, “I can do that.”

As the other boys watched in nervous anticipation, I boldly walked up to the hedge. I looked at them again and asked for reassurance, “Mike really caught a bee with his bare hands and was not stung?“ Mike said “yes”, and the other boys said, “Yes, I saw him.” So based on that testimony, I stepped up, cupped my hands and caught a bee WITH MY BARE HANDS. For a brief moment I could feel his wings buzz against the palms of my hands and his body bounce from side to side. The other boys looked on in amazement. Then it happened, the bee stung me. I jumped back and let go of the bee. My hand hurt, and tears began to roll down my face. I can’t remember for sure, but I think I went home for a while.

I was hurt and confused. How did Mike catch a bee with his bare hands and not get stung? Was he just lucky? My friends wouldn’t have lied to me. What really happened out there?

A few minutes later I went back outside and questioned my friends. “I thought you said that Mike caught a bee with his bare hands?” They all said that he had and that they had seen it with their own eyes. So I challenged Mike, “Do it again. Show me.” So Mike turned to the hedge, pulled the sleeves of his heavy sweater over his hands and nervously cupped a bee in his hands. He held it for about one second, then let it go and ran about ten feet away.

The childhood debate ensued. “That’s not bare hands.” “Yes, it is.” “No it isn’t, you pulled your sleeves over your hands.” “That’s sill bare hands. “ No, it isn’t.” “Yes, it is.” “I never said you couldn’t use your sleeves.” “That’s cheating!” “No, it isn’t.” “Yes, it is.” And on and on it went.

My friends had made a claim that I took to be true at face value. I believed that what was true for them could be true for me. I had faith, as misguided as it was, it was childhood faith. Based on their statements, I stepped out in faith (or pride), and I got stung. On closer examination, they didn’t believe their own claims. They said you could catch a bee with your bare hands, but they were unwilling to truly risk it. They hedged their bet. They covered themselves.

Last night I was giving a couple of young men a ride home. As we were driving I made a statement that sounded so good. It was one of those quotable statements that someone would post on Facebook. I said, “Real faith doesn’t have a back-up plan.” It was so easy to say, but as soon as the words cleared my lips I was struck by how good and noble it sounds, but how hard it is to do. Pastors and other Christians talk boldly about living by faith, but when it comes down to it we are formulating back-up plans. We are pulling the sleeves of our sweaters down over our hands. We say that we believe but we are going to protect ourselves so we don’t get stung.

In Matthew 6, Jesus says to not layup for yourself treasures on earth. Do we believe that enough to actually practice it, or do we not lay-up a lot of treasures. Or do we lay-up treasures but then claim that we really aren’t placing our confidence in them.

In the same passage Jesus said, 25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Elsewhere Jesus says, “pick-up your cross and follow me.” That is not just a willingness to die for Jesus. It is a following Jesus with no plan B. There is no turning back. No hedging your bets. No pulling down your sleeves to cover yourself.

The question is not what other people are doing. The questions are for me. Am I willing to risk it all and follow Him? Am I willing to move forward without a plan B, a safety net? I have seen how others do it. Theirs is limited faith, but what is mine? Am I willing to believe Jesus for what He said, the way He said it? Am I going to reach out in faith, and risk being stung? Risk the ridicule of those around me.

Can you really catch a bee with your bare hands? It is hard to do when you have been stung once; but this time the challenge doesn’t come from childhood friends, it comes from the Son of God. Do I believe Him? Is it child-like faith or childish stupidity? I think I will risk it again and go with faith.

Following God’s Leading

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

More than seven years ago, Jim and I worked together on the design for a plastics plant to be built in Saudi Arabia. We didn’t work that closely together; in fact I can’t exactly remember what it is that we collaborated on. That was the only time that Jim and I worked together.
Not too long after that an incident occurred at work and three employees were let go. Jim was one of them. This was a major shake-up in our department and it was a major personal shake-up for Jim. From my understanding, he did some deep evaluation of his personal relationships and his relationship with God. One of the results is that he began to attend Christ’s Church of the Valley more regularly with his wife Debbie.
Once in a while Jim and I would run into each other at Church and make small talk about how things were going at our companies. Due to a shortage of available contracts, Jim found himself traveling for work. He would spend months in South Carolina (or maybe it was North Carolina. I’m not sure). Once or twice a year we would cross paths. Jim told me that he had been watching the CCV Church service online and that he could see me standing in the audience during the worship time. I happened to sit in the line of sight of the camera.
Fast forward to a few months ago, I was laid off from my job in February. Our major client went through a reorganization that directly affected my division. My company went through its own reorganization that further impacted my division. On top of that oil prices have plummeted, devastating the petrochemical industry as a whole. The bottom line is that after more than 17 years with my company, I was out of work and there was little chance that I would be going back to my previous employer.
It just so happens that my last day was just before the beginning of Lent. We have observed Lent for the past few years; it has been a valuable spiritual discipline. So this year I decided to give up work for Lent (or maybe it was decided for me). At any rate, I decided that rather than go after the quickest job I could find, I would use the 40 days of Lent to truly seek God’s direction for my next steps in life.
Without going into too much detail, I explored ministry related opportunities and sought out counsel from persons I respect. None of the ministry related opportunities showed any chance of developing into a vocation.
What did happen is that one morning in Church, Debbie, Jim’s wife, sat three places away from me, next to my mother-in-law. After the service my mother-in-law and her spoke briefly and then she greeted me and asked how things were going. I told her that I have been laid-off and she said that I should call Jim to see if they had any work. She gave me his number and I said I would call. Monday I didn’t call, but on Tuesday Jim called me. We talked for a while and he asked me to send my resume; which I did. My resume was pretty generic. Jim made some suggestions and I rewrote it to tailor it to the job. I sent it back and on Good Friday I had a Skype interview. By the next Monday we were discussing the details of a job offer and by the week after Easter I had the job.
For the past seven years, my career has been stagnating with no opportunity for advancement. This job will stretch me and give me all kinds of growth opportunities. It is a minimum one year assignment. I will be deeply involved with materials control for construction of the largest plastics plant in the world. I will be working with locations all around the world: India 2 design firms, China 1 design, 2 design/fabricators, 1 module fabricator, Italy 2 project management sites, Brazil 1 design site, and construction in Texas. On top of that, I will be making considerably more than I ever have before along with a good benefits package. The last day of my leave of absence is Friday April 17th. My first day on the new job is the following Monday.
Was this God’s leading? I can’t say for sure, but it seems that God had Jim and I working together on the one right project. He allowed us to maintain contact over the years. When the time was right we made the connection. All of the other opportunities never materialized in any significant way.
Like I said, I can’t say for sure that this is God’s leading, but it seems to be. One way or another I intend to take the advantage of the opportunity and use it to the glory of God. I still feel God is continuing to prepare me for something else and this is just one more step in the process. I am anxious to see what else He has in store.